By Ray Biggs
D3hockey.com Managing Editor
Mendota Heights, MN - In advance of this weekend’s NCAA women’s championship weekend, there was talk of unfinished business for the Plattsburgh State Cardinals. More specifically, that business was in last year’s semifinals where the Cardinals lost to Elmira in overtime, and in the third place game where Hamline also got the better of Plattsburgh to send the Cardinals to a disappointing fourth place finish.
It took a bit longer to get to this one, but the Plattsburgh State Cardinals (29-2-0) had no issue getting their hands on a seventh national championship once they arrived in the twin cities. Plattsburgh got the better of a raucous first period with a 1-0 lead, and Kassi Abbott made every stop she needed to as the Cardinals added to their lead as Plattsburgh defeated Hamline University 4-0 to claim the program’s fifth national title in a six year period.
The Cardinals were paced by NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Courtney Moriarty, who added her third goal of the championship weekend on a 2-0 backbreaker goal in the second period. Mackenzie Millen picked up a pair of assists, and goaltender Kassi Abbott had a 29 save shutout as the Cardinals blanked a title game opponent for the first time.
|Plattsburgh's Emma Killeen unleashes a shot in the first period that would later become the assist on the game's first goal. Kaitlin Drew-Mead tipped the puck for a 1-0 Cardinal advantage.
Photo: Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com
Jaela O’Brien had 24 saves in the loss for Hamline. The Pipers out-shot the Cardinals on the night 29-28, and did so for a second consecutive meeting.
The game promised to be a track meet with two of the nation’s best offenses going at it. After the first few minutes, fans got what they came for as the squads played an uptempo first period. As fast as the period went along, the Cardinals defied that tempo momentarily to land the first blow from a standing start just moments after they were robbed of their best opportunity yet on the rush.
With just over 11 minutes to go in the period, the Pipers sparked a 3-on-1 for the Cardinals with a turnover on the bench side of their own blue line. The Cardinals worked the puck to the trailer from the right wing, then dumped it off to Courtney Moriarty on the left side. When Moriarty released the shot, she was met by Hamline netminder Jaela O’Brien, who went post to post and reached behind her back to secure the puck in what is arguably the best save of the tournament.
On the ensuing faceoff in the offensive zone, the Cardinals broke through. Mackenzie Millen won the draw back to Emma Killeen and Killeen immediately pulled the trigger on a deep shot. That shot caught a well-positioned Kaitlin Drew-Mead in the slot and deflected behind O’Brien to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. That score would hold up despite continually generated chances by both sides as Plattsburgh led 1-0 after twenty minutes of action. The Pipers out-shot the Cardinals 8-7 through the first twenty minutes.
|Plattsburgh's Courtney Moriarty sees the puck hit the back of the net for the Cardinals' second goal in Saturday's national championship game.
Photo: Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com
The tempo seemed to slow greatly to start the second period as if the frantic first period required immense energy from both sides. That change in tempo helped Plattsburgh double its lead when some deliberate breakout puck handling came back to hurt the Pipers. At 8:46, Moriarty notched her third goal of the tournament on a turnover that she jumped on with a great read inside the blue line. The veteran forward skated in, made a subtle deke to open up the left side of the net, and slipped it by O’Brien to increase the advantage. The goal was Moriarty’s twentieth of the season.
The speed of the game certainly increased as the period went along, but neither team was able to capitalize. Abbott and O'Brien continually excelled as the score stood at 2-0 through two periods. The Cardinals outshot the Pipers in the second period 14-6.
Plattsburgh continued to expand on their lead in the third period of play despite a Hamline push that saw the Pipers outshoot the Cards 15-7. Mackenzie Millen played a beautiful backhand pass onto the tape of Sara Krauseneck, and Krauseneck drilled a shot from the hashmarks between the legs of O’Brien for a 3-0 lead, and the Cardinals further iced the game when Abby Brush scored at 16:40. The celebration was on from there as the Cardinals claimed the top honors for a seventh time.
Hamline finishes their season at 23-4-3.
In the third place game, Adrian defeated top-seeded St. Thomas 1-0. Maggie Mitter scored the lone goal of the game for the Bulldogs. Eryn Cooley excelled in the net for the Tommies in just her second start since taking over for an injured Kenzy Torpy with 23 saves. Denisa Jandova turned away 24 shots for the shutout for the Bulldogs.